Poland held a massive parade in its capital Warsaw on Tuesday to showcase its military might, as the country seeks to strengthen its defense capabilities in the wake of the war in neighboring Ukraine.  

The Armed Forces Day parade took place on the anniversary of the 1920 Battle of Warsaw, in which Polish troops defeated Bolshevik forces advancing on Europe.

“August 15 is not only an opportunity to pay homage to the heroes of the victorious Battle of Warsaw and to thank contemporary soldiers for defending our homeland,” Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said.

“It is also a perfect day to show our strength, to show that we have built powerful armed forces that will effectively defend our borders without hesitation.”

Poland marks Armed Forces Day with military parade

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What was on display?

Around 2,000 soldiers from Poland and other countries of the NATO military alliance participated in the parade.

They marched through Warsaw accompanied by 200 items of defense equipment, while helicopters including Black Hawks and jets including F-16s and FA-50s flew overhead.

Among the equipment on display were US-made M1A1 Abrams tanks, South Korean K2 tanks and K9 self-propelled howitzers, as well as HIMARS mobile artillery systems, Patriot air defense systems and Polish-made Borsuk infantry fighting vehicles.   

Poland, a NATO member, supports Kyiv in its war against Russia.

The country’s right-wing government, headed by the Law and Justice (PiS) party, has been beefing up its defense preparedness, spending over $16 billion (€14.6 billion) on tanks, missile interceptor systems and fighter jets over the past two years.

PiS has vowed to double the size of the army and spend around 4% of the nation’s economic output on defense this year.

The increased spending and weapons procurement have bolstered Polish defense capabilities.

Members of a military band arrive for the parade on Armed Forces Day in Warsaw
Around 2,000 soldiers from Poland and other countries of the NATO military alliance participated in the paradeImage: Kacper Pempel/REUTERS

Defense high up on people’s priorities

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, on Tuesday criticized past governments for not prioritizing the military.

“The last eight years have been a time of rebuilding the Polish army,” he said. “Earlier we had the opposite situation, a decrease in the size of the Polish armed forces.”

Opposition lawmakers, however, accuse the government of instrumentalizing the military for its own political gain.

“I wish you (soldiers)… that you never again have to provide a background for political hatred,” Marcin Kierwinski, a lawmaker from liberal opposition party Civic Platform (PO) wrote on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Poland is scheduled to hold a general election in October, in which PiS will seek to win a third term.

sri/wd (Reuters, AP)

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